In October 23, 1906 the Brazilian Alberto Santos Dumont made the first mechanical flight on a heavier-than-air machine: at 4 p.m. his airplane, the “14-bis”, rose from the ground and traveled the distance of 60 meters at a height of 2 to 3 meters: a small flight for a man but a great flight for humanity!
At the grand banquet given on occasion by the Aero Club of France to the famous pioneer, Ernest Archdeacon pronounced the following words:
“Were I capable of the sin of envy, I should sin today in envy of my friend Santos Dumont, who has succeeded in winning glory as transcendent as any that man can aspire to in this world. He has just achieved, not in secret, not before hypothetical and unscrupulously biased witnesses, but in the clear light of day and before a crowd of people, a superb flight of 60 meters, at a distance of 3 meters from the ground, thus registering a decisive event in the history of aviation.”
On November 12, he set the first aviation record in the world, flying 220 meters in 21 ½ seconds with members of the Aero-Club du France in attendance. This won Santos Dumont a prize of 1500 francs for making the first flight over 100 meters. The flight was observed by officials from what would become the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (the designated keeper of aviation records), and was credited the first mechanical flight in the world.
Here is the testimony of the Commission of the Aero Club regarding Santos Dumont’s flights made on November 12, 1906:
Second trial – Take-off at 10.25 a.m. The
machine flew all over the training field, flying twice a little above the
ground, the first time at 40 meters and the second one at about 60 meters.
The run ended with a trial turn in full flight, same being cut short owing
to the proximity of the trees, after having made a quarter turn to the
right. The axle of the right supporting wheel, which had been slightly
damaged during the landing, was replaced at lunch time.
both trials the wind blew in gusts, the breezes suddenly coming up and
just as suddenly dying away.
trial – Take-off at 4.09 p.m. Two flights: the first one for a distance
of 50 meters; the second one being timed by Mr. Louscouf and Mr. Besançon,
as follows: 82.60 m in 7s i.e.,
11 47 m per second or 41.292 km per hour. Right turn trial stopped by the
Polo barrier when the machine had already described nearly a half-turn.
During this trial Mr.
Santos Dumont officially beat his own October 23 record, with which he
held the Archdeacon Flying Cup. All the above mentioned flights were made
in the same direction: the take-offs were from the Northern end of the
Bagatelle lawn, the flights terminating at the Polo barrier.
fourth trial was effected in exactly a contrary direction to the others.
The airman started against the wind. The take-off was at 4.45 p.m. when
the day was drawing to a close.
machine, in a favoring breeze and still furthers aided by a slight list,
sailed along almost all the time in fine fashion. It rushed though the
air at full speed, surprising the spectators who did not get out of the
way quick enough. In order to avoid crushing the people, Santos Dumont
turned upwards, passing 6 meters over their heads. Did the gallant experimenter
suffer an instant of hesitation? No. The machine stopped, but somewhat
off its balance, turning to the right. Santos Dumont, who had kept his
presence of mind in a marvelous manner, stopped the motor and descended.
But the right wing was touched by the wheels which had come off and was
slightly damaged. Fortunately Santos Dumont escaped untouched and is now
the center of a wildly cheering crowd.”
the newspapers of the world noticed the flight and many European newspapers
published photographs of it. A cinematographic company filmed the scene.
1910, a monument was built on Bagatelle with the inscriptions:
In 1913, a second monument, designed by
the French sculptor Colin, was built by the Aero Club of France in Santos
Dumont’s honor, at Saint-Cloud, with the following inscriptions:
North Americans, however, credit the Wright brothers as the first to fly
in an airplane in December 17, 1903 - three years before Santos Dumont
-, and make a case for them, but the many sources they cite prove just
For example: in 1956 the Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics, James R. Durffe, congratulated Brazil by “the Fiftieth Anniversary celebrating the first flight of the heavier than air machine which was designed, constructed and flown by Brazil great aviation pioneer, Alberto Santos Dumont.”
have no wish to detract from merits of the Wrights, from whom I have the
greatest admiration; but it is undeniable that, only after all of us had
flown, they made their appearance with a better machine than ours, saying
that it was a copy of one they had built before we constructed our machines.
after the Wright Brothers, Levasseur came on the scene with the ‘Antoinette’,
which was superior to everything else then existing; Levasseur had been
working on the flight problem for 20 years, therefore he could have said
that his machine was a copy of another built many years before. But he
did not so.
would Edison, Graham Bell or Marconi say if, after they had presented in
public the electric lamp, the telephone or wireless telegraphy, some other
inventor came on the scene with an electric lamp, telephone or wireless
telegraph apparatus, saying that he had invented them before they did?
To whom does humanity owe aerial navigation
in heavier-than-air-machines? To the Wright brothers’ experiments, made
in secret (they are the first to say that they did everything possible
so that nothing should transpire regarding the results of their experiments)
and which were so unknown to the world that we see everybody calling my
220 meters flight ‘a memorable minute in the history of aviation’, or to
Farman, Blériot or myself, we having made all of our demonstrations
before scientific commissions and in road daylight?”
Later, in another book, called “The mechanical man”, - still not published - Santos Dumont wrote:
may now say” (he was writing this round about 1929) “that it was very painful
indeed for me, after all my work on dirigibles and heavier-than-air-machines,
to see the ingratitude of those who, a few years before, had praised me
made my experiments in Paris, before the people and the press, who witnessed
my achievements. The Aero Club of France honored me, as a pioneer of aeronautics,
with the monument at Saint Cloud and the commemorative stone at Bagatelle,
said acts of homage being officially confirmed by the Government of France
bestowing on me the Legion of Honor ribbon, and I feel embarrassed at having
to speak about myself – which I consider a very odious thing to do – in
order to defend said evidence of my achievements and the honors conferred
on me and which sometimes seem to have inconsiderately been forgotten.
defense is more a proof of my gratitude than a vindication of rights. This
last named claim, by the way, would be useless because history is only
written on the rolling back of time and with facts and documents.
1901 to 1903 the whole world speaks of nothing else but my successful flights
1906, my name is again praised to the skies, this time as the first man
to fly in a heavier-than-air-machine… It is impossible to cite here all
the newspapers which spoke about me in those terms, but what is certain
is that all of them, without exception, were in perfect agreement regarding
few years roll by, and all is forgotten.
The partisans of the Wright brothers claim
that they flew in the United States from 1903 to 1905. Said flights said
to have been made near Dayton, in a field along one of whose sides a street
car used to pass.
cannot fail to be profoundly surprised by the following inexplicably, unprecedented
and hitherto unknown fact: during three and a half years the Wrights made
innumerable mechanical flights and no journalist of the perspicacious press
of the United States took the trouble to go and see the flights, watch
the Wrights at work and take advantage of the opportunity to write up the
most interesting interview of the time!
what a great time it was!
Bennett was in the full tide of success. He was the prototype of the American
journalist, the founder of interviewing on a large scale, and who had sent
one of his men, Livingstone, to look for Stanley in the middle of Africa,
then unknown and unexplored.
He encouraged everything new. Remember the Gordon Bennett Cup for free balloons and the one for automobiles.
Nearly every day and every night there was one of his reporters to be found in my workshop.
are – he used to say to me – in a golden age of the history of the world
and a prodigious interest is taken in your work.
almost every day there were published reports on my activities in Gordon
then can one imagine that, at the same time, the Wright brothers were flying
round in circles for several hours without anyone taking any notice of
was only in 1908 that Wrights came to France and showed their machine for
the first time. (…)
– and I request that careful note be taken of this – if the two brothers
showed their machine at the end of 1908, it was because they had received
an offer of 500.000 francs from a French contractor who asked them, in
return, to give public demonstrations with the machine and to cede their
patent rights to France.
And here is another point:
at the Saint Louis World’s fair, in 1904, i.e., at the time when the Wrights’
machine, according to what they alleged, had been flying for a year, -
and St. Louis is only a few miles from Dayton – there was a prize to be
won, of the same value – 500,000 francs, as the offer they afterwards,
in 1908, received from France. And on that occasion no cession of patent
rights was demanded! But this prize did not interest the two brothers.
They preferred to wait for four and a half years and travel 10.000 kilometers,
to fulfill the conditions of the French offer, at very time when, I, Farman,
Blériot and others, were already flying!”
the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk and at Dayton were not a source of interest
or curiosity in the neighborhood. Similarly, they did not caused any commotion
to passersby, especially on a nearby road with heavy traffic; neither did
they have any trusted witnesses. On a certain occasion the Wright Brothers
invited newspaper reporters to see their experiments. Octave Chanute was
one of them and, as an eyewitness, remarked that there was no takeoff.
Since true witnesses of the alleged flights were lacking, supporters of
the Wright brothers brought forth a supposed diary in which the two brothers
themselves took notes of their achievements.
After Santos Dumont’s flights, the Wright brothers sent a letter to Captain Ferber with these words (the original letter, in French, was published for the first time in 1946, in the book of Robert Gastambide, " L´envol"):
and I learned through reading the correspondence from Paris published in
the ‘New York Herald’, that the French public had highly appreciated a
220 meters flight in a straight line made by Mr. Santos Dumont in an airplane
of his own construction. We would like very much to have exact reports
of the experiments made at Bagatelle and hope that you will draw up for
us a correct list of the trials and give us a description of the flying
machine and a drawing of same. We had already seen by the picture in the
New York Herald that the airplane rests on three wheels and we deduce from
this that Mr. Santos Dumont, in order to effect his take-off, has first
to make a run over a long level field. With the aid of the starting-off
pillar that we use, Orville and I speedily go right up into the air in
a much more practical fashion. Now, in view of the fact that the French
consider a 220 meters flight in a straight line over the ground to be a
‘sensational performance’, we are sure to find a lot in our favor if we
come to exhibit in France; but the voyage and the transportation of the
machine and the pillar cost much more money than the two poor mechanics
can afford to spend; also, dear Captain Ferber, if French experts, under
your management, desire to come to Dayton, we will give them a demonstration
of the machine in a neighboring field, flying for five minutes in a complete
circle and let them have an option of the performance and release of the
machine, for $50.000, cash down.
In 1908, the Wright brothers sent the following letter to Captain Ferber:
My brother Orville
and I were very greatly moved on reading in the New York Heraldthat Mr.
Henry Farman had publicly effected at the Issy-Plaine field a complete
circle flight of 1 kilometer, and had been recompensed with the 100.000
francs offered by Mr. Deutsch, Mr. Archdeacon and others. We would be very
pleased if you would send us a description of Mr. Henry Farman’s machine
which, like Mr. Santos Dumont’s airplane, runs along the ground on wheels
before going up into the air. We therefore believe that the French committee
of experts should come immediately to Dayton to see how good the Wright
machine is, owing to a patented wing spread device, it certainly makes
a shorter turn about than Mr. Farman’s machine, which only has its rudder
steering gear. You say in your last letter that the French experts only
travel in the summer, but we think that is too long to wait and intend
to divulge our machine, if your experts do not take up the matter without
as Orville and I need money, we now agree to receive for a flight of five
minutes’ duration in a complete circle, only $25.000, cash down. Can you
cable the reply?
is the significance of the two letters transcribed? One sees, in first
place, that the Wright brothers were not ignorant of the feats of Santos
Dumont and the French, even showing, by their own testimony, the worldwide
effect caused by the flights, which were given such importance that the
Wrights wrote to Ferber asking for information about machines, which they
had noted, by the pictures published in the American newspapers, were different
from theirs, in an essential point: the manner of taking-off.
they were trying to find out, imbued with boundless curiosity, what Santos
Dumont’s and Farman’s machine and that of the Brazilian aeronaut – the
Wrights did everything to keep their own flights from becoming know. If,
regarding flights, publicly made and divulged throughout the world, they
wrote to Ferber asking for information, what is one to say about the opinion
of the French on their flights, made in secret?
Wrights, in said letters, equally show their lack of knowledge and astonishment
regarding the means used by Santos Dumont and the French to leave the ground.
And what is more surprising, showing their ignorance regarding the French
system, they say that ascension is more practical in their machines, i.e.,
starting off from a pillar weighing 700 kilos!
is another point to be remembered here: knowing about the flights made
in France (the first flight in an airplane, made by Santos Dumont and a
complete circle flight, by Farman), the Wright did not utter a single word
of protest, to guarantee, if not priority, then at least the possibility
of an immediate trial, for them to vindicate their claim to the glory of
the first human flight. Surprised at the news, they limited themselves
to writing to Captain Ferber, asking for detailed information on the achievements
of Santos Dumont and Farman.
view of said letters, there can be no doubt about the following fact: the
Wrights knew about the achievements of Santos Dumont and Farman, showing
that they were aware of the importance that the French gave to their flights.
Nevertheless, they kept silence. No protest was lodged at the Aero Club
one of the Wright brothers came to France, Santos Dumont was already flying
in his “14-bis”, since 1906 and with his “N. 19” or “Demoiselle”, since
June 6 1908, the magazine “L’Illustration” reproduced a photograph of one
of the flights of the Wright brothers at that time, published in the New
York edition of the “New York Herald”. Regarding the authenticity of said
photograph the French magazine said: “This document is a proof on a photographic
paper. But is it a photograph? The aspect is very doubtful and besides
this, one notes in same all the characteristics of a trick.”
25th anniversary of the Kitty Hawk flight, which the Wright
Brothers alleged that they made in 1903, was celebrated in the United States
on December 1928, Orville Wright being present.
Coolidge, in a speech made a few days before at the inauguration of the
Washington Aeronautical Conference, made a reference to Santos Dumont,
regarding his contribution to aeronautics, but gave to the Wrights the
glory of having solved the problem of flight.
did not send a representative to said commemoration because it did not
recognize, as it still does not do, the priority of the Wrights in flights
with a heavier-than-air machine.
Here is the chronology of the records in Aeronautics published by the “National Aeronautics” of 1939:
By the way, the
Wright brothers never patented the airplane, only gliders. Note that there
is no engine or propellers in the draws of the patent.
Santos Dumont was indubitable the first man to fly in an airplane. The
North Americans historians do not have any proof for promoting the Wright
brothers as the first to fly.
When Santos Dumont decided to attack the problem of the mechanical flight, this conception was considered utopian by his contemporaries, and remained so until 1905. After Dumont’s flight, nobody doubted more of the possibility of the mechanical flight. French Captain Ferber in his book “Aviation” written in 1907, says: “The Brazilian inventor has proved that flying machines can fly,” which is equivalent to saying that until then nobody else had.
are his own words, taken from pages 97 and 98 of his book:
“On October 23rd,
before the Aviation Committee, at 4.45 p.m. the airplane rose from the
ground, gently and without the slightest jolt. The crowd, astonished, had
the impression that a miracle had been performed and at first were struck
dumb with admiration; then they raised a shout of enthusiasm as the plane
landed, and rushed forward to carry the aviator in triumph.”
a few lines further on:
“The record was raised to 220 meters a month later and the news flashed round the world at lightning speed. A new era opened from this date because the paralyzing spell had been broken. It had been proved that flying machines could fly.”
The airplane of the Wright brothers could not take off under its own power, even in 1908. Without a catapult to launch the airplane or sufficient headwinds, the Wright’s machine could not fly. Compare the flight of Santos-Dumont's Demoiselle with one of the Wright's European flights:
1 – THE WRIGHT BROTHERS HAD BEEN LIVING IN DAYTON, OHIO, BUT THEY FLEW IN KITTY HAWK, NORTH CAROLINA, A TOWN 500 MILES FAR FROM THEIR HOME.
2 – THERE WAS A PRIZE IN 1904, IN THE ST. LOUIS EXPOSITION, TO THAT ONE WHO MADE THE FIRST FLIGHT IN AN AIRPLANE (100.000 DOLLARS). THE WRIGHT BROTHERS DIDN'T COMPETE.
3 – IN 1904, THE ENGLAND GRANTED TO THE WRIGHT BROTHERS A PATENT (NUMBER 6732) FOR THEIR INVENTION: A GLIDER.
4 – DURING THE YEAR OF 1907, WHEN CHARLES VOISIN AND OTHERS FRENCH PILOTS WERE ALREADY FLYING, THE WRIGHT BROTHERS VISITED PARIS AND STAYED IN MEURICE HOTEL, ROOM 516 FOR SEVERAL MONTHS.
5 – WILBUR WRIGHT MADE HIS FIRST PUBLIC FLIGHT IN LE MANS, ON AUGUST 8TH, 1908 WITH THE “FLYER III”, EQUIPPED WITH A 30 HORSE POWER ENGINE.
6 – THERE IS NO MOVIE OF THE WRIGHT'S FLIGHTS BEFORE 1908.
7 – THE WRIGHT BROTHERS NEVER PATENTED THE AIRPLANE.
8 – THE TELEGRAPHER ALPHEUS DRINKWATER, WHO SENT THE MESSAGE USHERING THE WRIGHTS FLIGHTS, DECLARED TO "THE NEW YORK TIMES" OF DECEMBER 17, 1951, THAT ON THAT DAY – DECEMBER 17, 1903 – THE WRIGHT BROTHERS ONLY "GLIDED", AND THEIR FIRST REAL FLIGHT CAME ON MAY 6, 1908.
9 – THE
DECEMBER 1953 ISSUE OF THE "NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE" REGISTERED THAT
IN THAT YEAR SEVERAL ORGANIZATIONS DECIDED TO BUILD FULL-SIZE REPRODUCTIONS
OF THE ORIGINAL WRIGHT PLANE. TWO OTHER GROUPS PLANNED POWERED COPIES,
WHICH WOULD BE FLOWN BY TEST PILOTS. LATER THESE PROJECTS WERE ABANDONED.
AN INDUSTRIAL EXECUTIVE WHO HEADED ONE OF THE PROJECTS HAD 10 AERONAUTICAL
ENGINEERS LINED UP FOR THE JOB, AND THEY COULD NOT MAKE IT FLY.
1 – WHY DID THE WRIGHT BROTHERS TRAVEL 500 MILES ONLY TO FLY? WAS IT NOT TO HAVE THE HELP OF THE UP WIND COMING FROM THE DUNES?
2– A PRIZE
OF 100.000 DOLLARS WAS OFFERED IN 1904 IN ST. LOUIS EXPOSITION (USA) TO
WHO FLEW IN AN AIRPLANE. IF THE WRIGHT BROTHERS COULD FLY IN 1903, WHY
THEY DID NOT TRIED TO WIN THE PRIZE?
IF THE WRIGHT BROTHERS REALLY COULD FLY IN AN AIRPLANE IN 1903, WHY THEY
PATENTED A GLIDER IN 1904 IN ENGLAND? (NUMBER OF THE PATENT: 6732)
4 – WHEN IN PARIS, IN 1907, WHY DID THE WRIGHT BROTHERS NOT PRESENT THEMSELVES TO THE FRENCH AIRCLUB AND TO THE EUROPEAN PRESS?
5 – WHERE
ARE THE PROOFS OF THE WRIGHTS FLIGHTS BEFORE 1908???